Healthy by Nature radio show this week: Canadian naturopathic consultant, Dr. Daniel J. Crisafi PhD, MH, joins us to discuss timely topics: influenza, vaccines and building our immune response naturally. Then we have our quarterly interview sponsored by Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. Our special guest interviewer is our producer and periodic co-host, Andy Hopkins. He will talk about holiday digestive issues with Certified Clinical Nutritionist and author,…wait for it…wait for it…Martie Whittekin. Call the live show at 1-800-281-8255. Click here to find podcasts, show archives and how to listen nationwide.
What is the health magic in fruits & vegetables?
Of course, they contain fiber and the vitamins and minerals that our bodies absolutely require, but of equal importance and far sexier are complex compounds like carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols. At this time of the year when the focus is on breads, cookies, pies, turkeys, hams, cheeses and the like, I want to give produce a little PR boost.
Recen research news has reluctantly admitted that perhaps fruits and vegetables (F&V) don’t prevent all types of cancer. But F&V do have an effect on some cancers as well as other positive effects that I’ll discuss next week. Here is a recent study on a particular cancer:
Carotenoids may reduce the risk of urinary tract cancers. (Carotenoids are also known as carotenes. Beta carotene is what makes carrots orange. Lycopene makes tomatoes red. Lutein is a carotene found in green vegetables.) The study showed that those with higher blood concentrations of carotenoids had a reduced risk of cancer affecting cells lining the urinary tract (UT), especially the more aggressive type. Lutein levels were associated with reductions of a less aggressive UT cancer. LINK
Incidentally, other studies hint that high blood levels of carotenes may be protective against several other cancers such as those of the breast, uterus and prostate.
PubMed (the government database) lists nearly 15,000 articles/studies on carotenes and cancer, but people still talk about a study done on beta carotene in Finland back in the early 1990’s. Beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A) was blamed for an increase in lung cancer. Based on that study, there is still paranoia in the medical community about carotenes. A few relevant factors:
The pill used int he study was a synthetic beta carotene. Natural beta carotene given in a complex of other carotene family members surely would have worked better. There is no concern whatever in any circle about eating vegetables that contain beta carotene.
The pill was coated with a carcinogenic coloring. (I’m not making that up. Furthermore, the study was funded largely by the US government.)
The participants were men who were long-term heavy smokers and were therefore already at great risk.
Beta carotene, besides being isolated from its family, was given without being in a proper balance with other antioxidants nutrients. That is important because antioxidants protect cells by working in teams. (When one antioxidant cannot hand off a spare electron to the next antioxidant in the chain, the resulting metabolites can build up and cause trouble.) One participant group did receive vitamin E with their beta carotene. However, the dose was a tiny fraction of E that was previously shown to help prevent lung cancer. And, again a synthetic, isolated fraction of vitamin E was used. Loading up on that one fraction may interfere with the work of the 8 members of the natural vitamin E family.*
Vitamin E needs to work with selenium, but the participants were probably deficient in that mineral because the soil in Finland is low in it.
Vitamin D is crucial to immune function, and being so far north, the Finns do not get a lot of sunshine
There was a lot of alcohol consumption among the participants. Alcohol interferes with the body’s use of both vitamin E and carotene.
This study was done not long after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and so participants had a higher than normal exposure to cancer-causing radiation.
The study authors thought the results odd in comparison to others and thought the effect might have been due to chance. That didn’t keep the media from going to town on the story or quoting it to this day.
BOTTOM LINE: One later study (most likely using the same isolated synthetic beta carotene) showed similar results, but another did not show a bad effect. We shouldn’t wait for a generation while they sort all that out. It just makes sense to get as much carotenoid nutrition as possible from whole natural foods where you know the balance and forms of the nutrients are right. I believe strongly in supplements, but I don’t recommend taking synthetic carotenes or synthetic vitamin E.* Both supplements should be taken as natural forms and in the complex families like they are found in food.
Smokers are a special case. Obviously, giving up smoking is the most valuable step. Smokers should be especially careful to get all the antioxidants including for example selenium (ideally as selenium yeast or Methylselenocysteine) and vitamin C. However, unless they are working with a nutritionist who can direct them to a safe balanced supplement program, maybe they better stick to just eating healthful food.
*On a product label, synthetic is listed as dl-alpha tocopherol. Natural is the shorter d-alpha tocopherol (without the “l”). But even that is just one fraction of vitamin E. I don’t worry too much about a small amount of that single tocopherol in a multiple vitamin, but if you are adding a separate vitamin E supplement, I suggest getting mixed tocopherols which will include beta tocopherol, gamma tocopherol, etc. This is an example of what I mean: LINK
Fun with prunes
Today when I was making my oat cereal, I added a couple of prunes chopped into small pieces. (Prunes, are now called by the more marketing-friendly term, “dried plums”.) The prunes came individually wrapped like candy. (That was not an environmentally-insensitive choice, just a shopping in a hurry mistake.) It tickled me wondering how many households gave those out to trick-or-treaters for Halloween…My next thought was about if those households have gotten all the toilet paper out of their trees and shrubbery yet.
As I’ve mentioned, steel cut oats are better for us than other types, especially compared to instant which raises blood sugar more quickly. I add a natural salt (we need salt) that contains minerals, Celtic Sea Salt. Dried plums add a nice natural sweetness and a little extra flavor to oatmeal. (Sometimes I use cranberries or raisins.) I also added small pieces of Granny Smith apple toward the end of cooking so they wouldn’t turn into apple sauce. And I then topped the oatmeal with chopped walnuts after it was finished because I like to keep the nuts crispy. Drat. I forgot to add sprouted flax this time. Sprouted flax is much less likely to spoil and the nutrients are more bio-available than with ground flax seeds.
LINK to Archive. Dr. Darcy Brunk tells us what his patients do to look younger. In the second half my guest Jarrow Rogovin, the founder of Jarrow Formulas, is also a fearless fighter for fairness and health freedom. He wants to talk about government regulation. He did NOT pull punches.
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My first book : Natural Alternatives to Nexium, Maalox, Tagamet, Prilosec & Other Acid Blockers. Subtitle: What to Use to Relieve Acid Reflux, Heartburn, and Gastric Ailments.
My latest book: Aloe Vera-Modern Science Sheds Light on an Ancient Herbal Remedy
The information contained in this newsletter has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The contents are for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.
Copyright 2012 Martie Whittekin, CCN